Enlightenment legacies: a new online resource

Voltaire Foundation

After a great Facebook response, I wanted to share this interesting initiative more widely – Greg Brown.

On January 7, 2015, two armed men claiming to belong to the extremist Islamic group Al-Qaeda entered the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper, shooting and fatally wounding several individuals. In the wake of this tragedy, French citizens were looking for answers on how to deal with this traumatic event. Voltaire’s 1763 Treatise on tolerance (Traité sur la tolérance) seemed to offer one potential answer, and copies of it were flying off the shelves of libraries and bookstores.

La Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyenLa Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen.

This example highlights how, in times of crisis, people continue to turn to the Enlightenment as one way of understanding the current social and political climate. The repeated act of returning to Enlightenment philosophy to answer the most pressing current…

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Pierre Bayle chez lui in Le Carla

Voltaire Foundation

Le Carla, a medieval fortified village near Foix in the Ariège, was the birthplace of Pierre Bayle, and the fitting location of a two-day meeting – open to all – on the subject of Huguenot travels and correspondence (November 9th-10th).

Bayle kept fond memories of his home town throughout his life and regretted not having taken more interest in the local agricultural and apicultural preoccupations. Out of nostalgia, he even devotes a few articles in his Dictionnaire historique et critique to local towns or local phenomena. Despite his long period of exile in Rotterdam (1681-1706), he never really settled down in the city: he never learnt to speak Dutch and never got used to the bitterly cold winters, nor to the custom of beer-drinking. After all, he was used to the warm climate of the French south and to drinking wine with his meals. The thick tobacco smoke…

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D’Éon vs Rousseau: Gender, slavery and the unique self

Voltaire Foundation

Chevalier d'Eon Portrait of Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont by Thomas Stewart (1792), at the National Portrait Gallery.

Virtually everything about the Chevalier d’Éon’s life was extraordinary. D’Éon had a decorated career as a dragoon, diplomat, spy for the French king and rumoured double agent, not to mention being a prolific author, proto-feminist, freemason, international celebrity and exceptional fencer.[1] However, far more remarkable than all of this is the fact that, aged forty-nine, the Chevalier began a new life as a woman. After rumours began to circulate in 1770, d’Éon, who was living in England at the time, was subsequently taken to court, declared a woman and required to adopt female dress for the last thirty-two years of their life. Upon death, the body was examined and described as ‘unambiguously male’.[2] The reasons for d’Éon’s acceptance of a female identity instead of proving otherwise have been guessed at but never fully…

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Noam Chomsky’s Statement to Turkish trial against academics for peace

The penal case against the signers of the Academics for Peace petition is a shocking miscarriage of justice, which friends of the Turkish people can only view with dismay.  The wording of the indictment, throughout, makes it clear that the case is an assault against fundamental rights of free expression that should be zealously safeguarded.  To take only one example, the signers are accused of calling on the government “to lift the curfew, punish those who are responsible for human rights violations, and compensate those citizens who have experienced material and psychological damage.” These are entirely reasonable appeals, quite standard in free societies, and very natural and praiseworthy on the part of concerned citizens.  Those who feel that the petition misrepresents facts have ample opportunity to respond in a civilized manner.  There is nothing in the petition that supports terrorism in the slightest way.  The tortured attempt of the prosecution to…

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